Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised President Trump’s surprise decision to pull out of Syria, even as the United States’ closest allies criticized the move and said they will remain in the war-ridden country due to the Islamic State’s threat.
“If the USA made that decision, then it’s the right one,” Putin said during the annual press conference on Thursday. He noted that the presence of American troops in Syria was “illegal” because the Assad government never agreed to it.
“Donald is right, I agree with him,” the Russian leader added, pointing to Trump’s remarks that the Islamic State has been largely defeated.
Putin’s remarks came just hours before Trump tweeted that “Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy” about the decision to withdraw from the country as they will now have to fight Islamic State militants themselves.
Russia has long been criticized for its activities in Syria, with many pointing out the Russian military often worked to preserve the rule of Bashar al-Assad rather than strike the Islamic State. Russia also stood behind the regime even amid reports that Syrian military used chemical weapons on its own people.
The president announced the sudden decision on Wednesday in a video shot the White House and posted to his Twitter account.
“We've been fighting for a long time in Syria,” Trump said. “I've been president for almost two years, and we've really stepped it up. And we've won against ISIS. We've beaten them, and we've beaten them badly. And now it's time for our troops to come back home.”
The move was met with condemnation and criticism from major European and Middle Eastern allies.
The American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a force that was instrumental in pushing back ISIS militants from Iraq and parts of Syria, said the decision caused upset and fear.
“Everyone is upset, sad and afraid,” one SDF member from the Kurdish-dominant Syrian city of Kobane told Fox News. “It’s a historic mistake. We wanted to be part of America. We are surrounded by enemies, and ISIS isn’t even finished yet.”
“Everyone is confused and scared. This will mean that Turkey will likely attack us. We are in shock because we thought the U.S. would help us achieve peace after ISIS,” said Mazloum Kurdy, a 33-year-old father and teacher from Kobane.
“We didn’t think that they would help us defeat the terrorists and then leave us alone to face the horror of Turkish forces and its extreme faction. Now people are thinking to displace themselves from their homes here again, but nobody knows where a safe place to go is.”
The French government also disagreed with the White House assessment that the fight against the Islamic State is over.
“It shows that we can have different priorities and that we must count on ourselves first,” Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau told C-News television, according to Reuters. “For now, of course we are staying in Syria because the fight against Islamic State is essential.”
France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Twitter that while the militants lost most of their territory, they are active and need to be fought against.
“Islamic State has not been wiped from the map nor have its roots. The last pockets of this terrorist organization must be defeated militarily once and for all,” she said.
"Islamic State has not been wiped from the map nor have its roots. The last pockets of this terrorist organization must be defeated militarily once and for all."
The United Kingdom expressed a similar view, releasing a statement reiterating that it will continue its actions in Syria, saying the Islamic State still poses a threat even as it no longer controls the territory.
“The Global Coalition against Daesh has made huge progress. Since military operations began, the Coalition and its partners in Syria and Iraq have recaptured the vast majority of Daesh territory and important advances have been made in recent days in the last area of eastern Syria which Daesh has occupied,” the statement said.
“But much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat they pose. Even without territory, Daesh will remain a threat,” it added.
"But much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat they pose. Even without territory, Daesh will remain a threat."
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas seconded, tweeting a statement saying the 1,200 personnel German personnel in Syria will remain.
“IS has been pushed back but the threat is not yet over,” Germany's Foreign Office wrote in a tweet.” There is a danger that the consequences of this decision will damage the fight against IS and jeopardize the successes already achieved.”
Fox News' Hollie McKay and the Associated Press contributed to this report.